By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 5.21.2021 –
When I was new to recovery, still growing and maturing, I looked to my predecessors for knowledge and guidance. I adopted a lot of their language and ideas; one of which was the idea that someone must hit “rock-bottom” before they’re able to accept help or engage in the recovery process and that they must want recovery for themselves in order to succeed. Today I see that this misconception is not only persistent, but it is dangerous. Let’s correct this old school mentality— lives depend on it.
Fentanyl Changes Everything. Not only are drug cartels lacing cocaine, but they are also pressing pills that look remarkably like legitimately prescribed medications like Xanax, or Adderall, as if these pills weren’t dangerous enough as is. Now, people think they are buying pills manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and are unknowingly ingesting fentanyl. As a result, people are dying every day, long before “rock-bottom.”
“Rock-bottom” is subjective and personal. There is no definition for “rock-bottom.” Everyone is willing to accept a different level of pain or discomfort in their life. For one person “rock-bottom” might be experiencing homelessness, for another it is their spouse leaving, or losing their children, for another it might be passing out in unsafe places only to wake up the next morning wondering where they are and how they got there. If we remove this concept of “rock bottom” we’re free to start the recovery process whenever we take an honest look at ourselves and admit that substance use is causing more pain than happiness.
Addiction is a progressive disease. The cost of passively waiting for “rock-bottom” to arrive can be enormous. Substance use increases the risk of serious health issues and traumatic experiences. The longer we wait, the more we are exposed to these risks; some of which are irreversible. The longer we live in active addiction, the harder it can be to recover— tolerance increases, habits become more deeply ingrained, and the structure of the brain can even change. Choosing recovery will never be easier than it is right now!
Many people never hit “rock-bottom”. In 2019, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses. [https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates] Unfortunately, it is likely that some of those people and their loved ones were waiting for a “rock-bottom” moment that never arrived. Others could have had several “rock-bottom” moments that weren’t enough to sustain recovery.
Most people in recovery start out ambivalent. There are some people who do hit “rock-bottom” and have what is referred to as the “gift of desperation” that provides them with a new sense of clarity and purpose. However, many others—myself included—enter treatment as a result of external circumstances (court mandated, DCF, cut off from family, etc.) While it is true that at some point the person must want recovery for themselves, they do not need to want it on day one. Just like a broken bone, an addicted brain needs time to heal. Eventually, with treatment, support and practice, change occurs, and we see that we really want recovery for ourselves. In the end, I think it was my “manufactured” willingness that helped me sustain recovery; it’s a lot easier to put in the work when life is getting better, than it is when you’re alone, stuck at “rock-bottom.”